Rethinking Northern Ireland

Rethinking Northern Ireland provides a coherent and critical alternative account of the Northern Ireland conflict. While most writing on Northern Ireland is informed by British propaganda, unionist ideology or the currently popular 'ethnic conflict' paradigm which allows the analyst to wallow in a fascination with tribal loyalty. Rethinking Northern Ireland sets the record straight by re-embedding the conflict in Ireland in the history of and literature on imperialism and colonialism. It includes material on neglected topics such as the role of Britain in the conflict, on gender, on sectarianism and on culture in Northern Ireland.

The book presents a formiddable challenge to the shibboleths of contemporary debate on Northern Ireland. A just and lasting peace necessitates thorougt re-evaluation and Rethinking Northern Ireland provides a stimulus to that urgent task.




Part one Explanations, Ideologies and Strategies:

David Miller on academics and the troubles;

Pamela Clayton on religion and ethnicity as explanations for the conflict;

Joseph Ruane and Jennifer Todd on Irish nationalism;

LiamO'Dowd on the 'new' unionists;

Mike Tomlinson on British strategy in Ireland.

Part two Spaces, Strutures and Struggles:

James Anderson on rethinking borders;

Ronnie Munck and Douglas Hamilton on economics and peace;

Carol Coulter on feminism and nationalism;

Robbie McVeigh on Racism and Sectarianism.

Part three Culture, Conflict and Representation:

Ronan Bennett on culture in Northern Ireland;

Sarah Edge on representations of gender and national identity;

Des Bell on the heritage industry;

Bill Rolston on the problems of multiculturalism.


Reviews of Rethinking Northern Ireland

This book of articles by critically minded academics from Britain and Northern Ireland is a watershed in modern studies of the northern conflict... The opening chapter on ‘colonialism and academic representation’ by the book’s editor, David Miller, exposes brilliantly the propagandist thrust of most conventional sociological and political science writing on Northern Ireland... We can take it that the fertile analysis and research ground opened up by [the contributors] to this path-breaking volume will inaugurate a new intellectually fruitful era in Anglo-Irish and Northern Ireland studies
Irish Democrat, January/February 1999.

This book adds much to our understanding... as well as offering a thorough and diverse introduction to those who have come to the study of the North for the first time. Crucially it offeres a strongly-argued and well referenced rebuttal, to the dominant stories from the ‘Troubles’, whether they emanate from state, academic or broadcasting mainstreams... Miller’s own opening chapter not only makes the case for recognising the colonial relationship between Britain and Ireland as a key to understanding the conflict, but offers a hefty critique of academic institutions, practices and publications, which unsurprisingly, but disappointingly, tend to not only identify with, but are often to the forefront of, defending the status quo. Another strength of the book is the range of study which includes racism, media, feminism, Irish nationalism, unionism, the settler/native dichotomy, security and economy... There is a rigour which permeates most of the book Race and Class, 1999.

In Rethinking Northern ireland: culture, Ideology and colonialism edited by David Miller, thirteen contributors, mostly sociologists and/or media specialists, offer a new analysis of the motives and objectives of the British , the ‘new unionism’, liberalism and community relations approaches from a ‘radical critical’ standpoint. The central leitmotif is ‘British colonialism’; the editor attacks academics who, for reasons of class, national and occupatrional interests, have ‘abdicated responsibility’ for a critical appraisal of it…. There is deep (and at times persuasive) analysis W. Harvey Cox, Parliamentary Affairs 1999 52(4): 761.

Fern Lane, `New unionists', racism and the RUC An Phoblacht/Republican News á Thursday 05 August 1999 Rethinking Northern Ireland Edited by David Miller Published by Longman

David Miller [Ed] Rethinking Northern Ireland: Culture Ideology and Colonialism, Longman, London, 1998, pp 315 ISBN 0582 30287- 0.

The most interesting of these articles describe the representation of the conflict in the media and in academic discourse. David MillerÕs contribution ÔColonialism and Academic Representation of the TroublesÕ describes the role of the Northern Ireland academic establishment in stifling critical research, and supporting the official picture ofÊ the British government as a well meaning mediator, with no responsibility for the violence. Nation and Class

Journalists pursued in censorship clampdown BY LAURA FRIEL An Phoblacht/Republican News á Thursday 18 May 2000

Heading up the series is David Miller's Rethinking Northern Ireland, which reinstates imperial and colonial forces in contemporary analysis at the expense of the popular 'ethnic war' and 'two-nations' interpretations. Contents include sociological and political essays by Robbie McVeigh and Liam O'Dowd as well as cultural analysis by Bill Rolston, Desmond Bell, Ronan Bennett and Carol Coulter-writing on feminism and nationalism in Northern Ireland. IASIL Newsletter vol 3 no 1 April 1999, ISSN 1028-3378

Review: D. Miller (ed.), 1998. Rethinking Northern Ireland: Culture, Ideology and Colonialism, London and New York: Longman, pp.xxiii+317

This is intended as an introductory textbook and as an intervention designed to reorient our understanding of the Troubles. Individual chapters deal with diverse substantive and theoretical issues that are, in themselves, important and up-to-date (2 of the chapters include postscripts on the Good Friday Agreement); I can imagine recommending two or three of these in course handouts or reading lists, and to that extent, the book is useful as an introductory text. As an attempt to reorient our understanding of the Northern Ireland conflict, the book fails, albeit in an interesting way. The editor wishes to challenge the prevailing view of the Troubles as an internal conflict between two competing ethnic, religious or national groups because it fails to comprehend Ireland’s colonial past, and Northern Ireland’s colonial present. This is a worthy objective, but it is not pursed with equal vigour by the different contributors, some of whom seem more concerned simply to update their already well-known views in the context of recent developments. More significantly, those contributors who take seriously the idea of locating Northern Ireland in its colonial context reveal a hostility or ambivalence towards recent theoretical developments in the field of colonial studies and postcolonial criticism.The trajectory of colonial studies has changed in the 20 years since Edward Said used Foucauldian ideas to analyse Western representations of the Orient. Colonialism has increasingly been understood as a cultural process, not only in the sense that racist ideas are used to justify economic exploitation and political oppression, but that the culture is expressive and constitutive of those exploitative and oppressive relations. The editor of this collection dismisses this cultural and discursive turn because, he suggests, it deflects attention from the harsh economic and political realities of colonialism. And yet, as the subtitle of the book suggests, the editor and several of the contributors are centrally concerned with culture and the representation of conflict in academic writing, literature, cinema and the heritage industry. Not all the contributors are as absolute as the editor. Desmond Bell, for example, reveals a willingness to engage with recent postcolonial theory in his discussion of the representation of Irish history in museum installations, but even he feels it necessary to enter a ritual denunciation of postmodernism.Something strange and interesting is going on when a book parades its interest in colonialism and cultural politics avoids contemporary colonial theory. There is an obvious explanation. Colonialists construct the colonised as backward and inferior according to a Manchean allegory; as an implacable binary opposition between races. Recent postcolonial criticism suggests that this is too simplistic and that, rather than binary opposites, the colonial encounter produces a much more complex situation characterised by cross-overs, hybridity and ambivalence. I suspect that the editor and most of the contributors to this book will avoid recent colonial theory and postcolonial criticism because they wish to retain the pantomime simplicities of an inverted manchean allegory in which there are the good (working class Irish nationalists) and the irredeemably bad (the British, the unionists and maybe even Northern Protestants more generally).

Andrew Finlay, (Trinity College, Dublin) The Economic and Social Review, January, 1999, Vol 30, No. 1, pp. 109-118